now focused on writing, virtual reality, and music. I teach a small feedback-intense writing course called The Writing Studio. Over the summer I gave "visual feedback" on over 100 drafts. Now distilling those ideas as a Write of Passage "feedback captain."
and want to help others do the same. My About page gives some context into how I've structured my site:
The ethos of why I write online is very much inspired by some pioneer bloggers in the 90's. They froze all their thoughts into the Internet through hyperlink mazes. I believe in both hyper-publishing and perfectionism. It's a bit of a paradox, but either one of them alone leads to an imbalance. I often publish after a single-session, but give myself permission to go back and relentlessly edit pieces that still interest me.
On my Writing page, I share some context behind the "Sets" below.
This idea is inspired by Gus Mueller, a self-described "dumpster-diving punk turned web developer." He's kept a detailed journal of his life, day by day, since 1996. Instead of navigating his life chronologically, you can use his glossary to dive in to whatever topic you want. These tag-groups cover the range of ideas I think about. They are portals that will drop you off into random parts of town.
Here's the full glossary and a breakdown of how the system works.
Whenever I would trip-sit Ed the Philosopher, I'd wander through his maze of old cassette tapes and anarchist books. You can learn a lot about a person by the random things they collect. I only know of my grandfather through a library he left behind in the 1980's. It makes me paranoid that a version of myself is buried in hard drives and password-locked web accounts. My new M.O. is to post everything here. You never know when you'll get struck by a meteorite.
Here's a tour through the Libraries.
📐 The Writing Studio
The Writing Studio is a four-week program that dives deep into the process of writing essays. It uses visual analysis (a fancy way to say shapes and colors) to help you see the hidden patterns in your writing. I give consistent feedback on scope, structure, and voice. The whole format is based on the "studio culture" model from architecture school. In addition to live workshops and group writing exercises, the average student gets around 8 hours of 1:1 time. Let me know if you're interested in joining.
🚀 Build Your Site With Notion
Switching from Squarespace to Notion opened up a floodgate for me. Publishing became frictionless (just a checkbox to go live). Notion also enables a kind of "fluid creativity." Regardless of how you start your website, you can easily fork off and break into new:
- Mediums (writing vs. art),
- Formats (essay vs. fiction),
- Topics (metaverse vs. music history),
- Phases (brain-fart vs. masterpiece), and
- Frequencies (daily vs. monthly).
When we box ourselves into a specific combination of these things, we either get stuck or stop evolving. Contrary to popular opinion, I'd argue that Notion offers flexibility and space to experiment. Rigidity only comes from burying our content in scattered and nested pages. I want to help people build simple "object-oriented" systems. That might sound scary, but all it means is creating a simple set of databases that grants you room to explore.
You can click OS to see how my site is setup.
Essays are about clearly communicating big ideas to strangers. This is where structure is important. Good structure results in clarity. I think of structure as a series of overlapping and invisible "pattern languages." Yikes. Pattern language? It means that by repeating ourselves in intentional and sneaky ways, we can etch ideas into our reader's memory. It takes a lot of time to craft something great, and I'll admit some of my essays here are still first drafts. That being said, these essays contain the ideas I want to return to and clarify over time.
Story-based writing works out a different part of my brain. When you have a linear plot to work from, you can forget about structure and focus on "voice." It's fun experimenting with placemaking, the sound of words, and run-on sentences. The Center of Mount Shasta is a new project of mine, and this piece expands on why I'm excited about fiction. If you want to read some VR trip reports (true stories), you can check out Crashing Facebook Connect or The Raccoon Coders of Neos.
My goal at the beginning of this year was to build a "mosaic" of ideas. By publishing something small, almost everyday, larger trends will emerge over time. It's less about quality or length, and more about capturing the range of things I think about. Tags connect all the bricks together. A note could be a link with a 50-word reaction, a 1,000 word mini-essay, an email, a note to self, or a stream of consciousness rant.
Miro is an online whiteboard that lets me quickly map out ideas spatially. It's the main tool I use in The Writing Studio to give visual feedback. I use Miro to outline ideas, capture online courses, give presentations, and design systems.
Here's the start of a series where I reverse-engineer great writing. It embodies the spirit of "practice analytically, perform intuitively." The goal is to internalize these lessons and then create from them without having to think. In Hunter's Breakfast Myth, I spend 2,000 words looking at a 500 word HTS excerpt. Sometimes, I'll isolate the area of focus, like the patterns in Virginia Woolf's run-on sentences. I'm also looking to "reverse-outline" essays to see what we can learn about structure. If you send me writing you like, I'll deconstruct it.
This is a whacky one. I use Playform.io to collaborate with an AI. Basically, I draw some lines and render it through a neural network. In a few seconds, it shoots back a dozen variations. Based on what I see, I then revise my linework and re-render. It's an iterative process with feedback between an AI and my subconscious. Now that I have a library of images, I'm starting to do the same thing with AI-Text generation. I'll go back and forth with GPT-3 to discover phrases and shape delirious stories.
Any writing that I publish can have multiple tags on it. Each tag is nested within one "tag group." These groups represent the range of things I write about. They're sorted so that the most populated groups are on the top left. You can click into any group and find all the tags and writings linked to it (some will be better than others). The beauty of Notion is that whole layout within each Tag Group is auto-generated through a template.
These are tags that have been mentioned in my writing in the last 7 days. These ideas are fresh in mind. If you write me a reply with some thoughts or questions on anything, I'll probably write more on it. I'm a believer in collaborative writing. You can click into a tag, and see other related writings from the past.
🎨 AI Machine Dreams
I discovered Playform.io at SIGGRAPH 2020.
You can draw lines, select an artist, and then it renders variations for you. This series is more "assisted" by AI than completely generated it. I make the forms, and a machine fills in the color. Based on outputs from a neural network, I refine my linework. It's an iterative process, with feedback between an AI and my subconscious.
Here are some themes that have emerged:
- The impact of technology on humanity
- The changing role of the artist
- Surreal landscapes, architecture, and beings
- Places I've seen in dreams
- Abstract collages of form
This series is listed as an NFT Collection on OpenSea.
Collecting music has been a big part of my life for the last 20 years. My library has evolved from physical CDs, to pirated MP3s libraries, to streaming services.
In the last 5 years, I've shifted away from albums and towards AI-generated playlists. That being said, there's something special about actively listening to a concept album with your full attention. After a few listens, you absorb the details and the lyrics, and it has a way of imprinting itself into your life and memory.
I'm starting to collect albums here in Notion, and would like to eventually write about each one.
📚 Book Shelf
Someone's book shelf is a cross-section of their mind. The range of inputs creates the slate from which they create from. Here are some of the half-read hard copies, e-books, and audiobooks I've hoarded over the years.
I hated reading in college. The only thing that I remember liking during that time was Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, which I read multiple times. As my life changed, what I read changed with it. Bored in business school, I binged psychology and religion. During architecture school I devoured Ching and some pompous theorists. My design thesis was around institutions for psychedelic therapy, so I became obsessed with Terence McKenna and Stan Grof. When I started a VR company, I got into the history of computing and Marshall McLuhan.
Now that I'm writing more, I'm finding myself drawn to fiction and poetry. I'm more interested in originality around language than the ideas themselves.
I also want to make it through this Simulation Fiction reading list I set up. The origin of Metaverse day-dreaming is often thought to be Snow Crash. But after some research, there's a 100 year tomb of little-known fiction where authors envisioned a society engulfed by virtual reality.
🎵 Song Analysis
The origin of "visual analysis" from The Writing Studio goes back to my attempts to analyze songwriting. The whiteboard in our flooded meat-cellar rehearsal space was always filled with hieroglyphic shapes.
What I ended up developing is a visual form of the "Nashville Number System." It's common now to use Roman numerals (I, IV, V) to signify the chords relative to the root so that a song could be played in any key. My system uses colors to signify chords:
- Root = Major 1, Minor 6 = White
- Sub-Dominant = Major 4, Minor 2 = Orange
- Dominant = Major 5, Minor 3 = Green
Each box is a measure. You start at the top left, read down, and then move right when you hit the bottom. The boxes paired with the colors give you a way to "see" the whole song at once (instead of having it unfold over X minutes).
What the system helped me learn is that a good song is a sequence of well-designed "shapes" that get looped through. Composition is the act of varying loop lengths, loop counts, and rhyme patterns between song parts (ie: verse, chorus, bridge).
This system is a way to demystify songwriting with a bare minimum amount of music theory (the major key). It's an enabler of "three chords and the truth." The idea is to focus on lyrics and sonic identity, instead of re-inventing the wheel of structure.